Sep 22, 2014
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November 2013 Archive for 100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

Plan for 2014 Pastures NOW

Nov 24, 2013

Many of us make resolutions or use a calendar for planning the coming year when January rolls around, why wait?

A planning calendar is especially useful with a grazing system as needs and opportunities change month by month. Even though green pastures filled with grazing bovines are months away, it isn’t too early to plan ahead.

December - January: This is a good time to study new developments in forage varieties by checking in with your seed salesman.  If animals are being wintered on pasture, land fertilizer can be provided by moving feeding sites to encourage uniform distribution of manure.  It’s not too late to review the current condition of your pastures following the grazing season of 2012. Much of our state (PA), suffered from a second year of drought leaving bare patches and weed proliferation that needs to be brought under control as soon as possible.

February & March: If seed isn’t ordered for frost seeding, planned renovation or new pasture development, it should be done before supplies are depleted.  Frost seeding needs to be completed before the pastures are muddy to achieve best soil seed contact. March is also a good time to check fences and water lines for damage and begin repairs.


April: Some grazing is usually possible by late-April in the Southern most parts of PA, but your grazing plan should provide for very rapid moves (MOB Grazing), which means moving your cattle sometimes as often as 3-4 times every day.  If your pastures have plentiful amounts of legumes, be sure to limit the amount of "fresh" legume intake to avoid bloat.  If your pastures lack legumes, a spring application of nitrogen may be needed to jump start the grasses.  Replace broken/loose fence posts that may have frost heaved.

May: Decisions made in May determine the sequencing of grazing moves to have a continuous supply of high quality forage through the entire grazing season. During May the rotation cycle may be up to 12 days, depending on your stocking rates.

Most renovation seeding will be done in early May. Key points in pasture development include choice of adapted varieties and species that will save you money by persisting for several years, adding legumes to provide nitrogen, and considering both quality, yield potential & durability.  IF your adding Alfalfa to your pasture stands I recommend a "sunken crown" variety.  Once established, the stands will last two to three times longer than your standard alfalfa varieties due to hoof traffic.

June: Continue to schedule a weekly walk over all the pastures as you consider your next pasture/paddock to be grazed. If growth becomes uneven or plants develop seed heads, clipping or following the cows closely with heifers will help keep the appropriate pasture rotation sequence.

July: By mid-summer, given "appropriate" moisture and sun, the length of a rotation should have stabilized to about 7-9 days. Plan for changes in soil moisture, rate of re-growth, animal needs and weed pressure. If you want to extend the grazing season into winter after growth has stopped, a stockpiled pasture(s) should be started before the end of July.

August: If pasture growth is declining, the length of the grazing cycle will need to be decreased to 3-5 days with supplemental free-choice dry hay in order to avoid overgrazing and loss of pasture productivity for the following season. This may be a time to utilize annuals to fill the gap in pasture growth. If you want a spring calving herd, now’s the time to expose your heifers & cows to your bull(s).

September: Monitor weeds, especially Canadian thistles & multi-floral rose, to determine a course of action.  If you’ve managed rotations and have been blessed with adequate moisture, the grass should be thick with few invasive weeds.

October - November: Prepare for winter and spring by maintaining fences, lanes and drain above ground watering lines/systems.  Inventory quality and quantity of stored dry hay.  You may be fortunate enough to have a surplus of hay to sell.  Or you may need to purchase forages due to shortages. If feeding on pasture, make a plan that includes feeding areas that are moved where fertility of manure is best utilized, and knee deep mud isn’t accumulated due to high traffic area’s prior to the ground freezing.

December: Finally, you’ve got a month to relax.  YEAH RIGHT!



Cow in a can

Nov 18, 2013

 Can you taste the pressure!?


Pressure canning is the ONLY SAFE METHOD             

for canning your Grass-fed meats.

All meat should be handled carefully to avoid contamination from the time of slaughtering until the products are canned.  Once your livestock is processed, the meat should be canned promptly or kept under refrigeration until processed.  Keep meat as cool as possible during preparation for canning, handle rapidly, and process meat as soon as it is packed.  Using 100% Grass-fed lean meat for canning is highly recommended; if not using 100% Grass-fed meat, you will need to remove most of the fat. Cut off any gristle, remove large bones, and cut it into pieces convenient for canning.


To prepare the "broth", place bony pieces in saucepan and cover with cold water.  Simmer it until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.  Discard any fat that is left over, than add the boiling broth to jars packed with your precooked meat.


Pack your hot 100% Grass-fed meat loosely, leaving 1-inch headspace in your standard Mason jars that can be found pretty much everywhere this time of the year.  And hopefully you purchased or have extra NEW/not previously used lid seals.  You NEVER want to re-use lid seals that were used before.  For thousands of years salt was used to preserve meats, specifically fish.  But that was because there weren’t any mason jars or pressure canners in the Old Testament.  Modern day meats may be processed with or without salt. If salt is desired, use only pure canning salt. Table salt contains a filler which may cause cloudiness in bottom of jar.  Use 1/2 tsp. salt to each pint, 1tsp. to each quart.  More or less salt may be added to suit your individual taste.  Or if you and your family are on a low to no sodium diet, don’t add any salt.


I guess I should have mention this at the beginning, but now might not be the best time to find out you never got your pressure canner back from your friend that borrowed It last season!  Ooops.  Hopefully you have your canner cleaned and ready for some pressurizing.  Be sure to follow the manufacturers step-by-step directions for your specific pressure canner.


When canning any food in regions less than 2,000 feet in altitude (dial gauge canner) or 1,000 feet altitude (weighted gauge canner), process according to specific recipe. When canning food in regions above 2,000 feet altitude (dial gauge canner) or 1,000 feet altitude (weighted gauge canner), process according to the following chart.




Pints and Quarts

Pints and Quarts

1,001 – 2,000 ft.

11 lbs.

15 lbs.

2,001 – 4,000 ft.

12 lbs.

15 lbs.

4,001 – 6,000 ft.

13 lbs.

15 lbs.

6,001 – 8,000 ft.

14 lbs.

15 lbs.

Processing time is the same at all altitudes.


Nov 12, 2013

 Pig’s on Pasture


   Cutting costs by pasturing pigs is possible.  Our TAM-ROC Pig’s are pastured from the time their 2 weeks old, until there are taken to our butcher.  Their have been allot of 100% grass-fed Pig’s claims out there.  And allot of those claims have been "called out" or disproven as not being 100% grass-fed simply due to the producers either lack of education or simple dishonesty.  I remember when we first started looking into attempting pure unadulterated 100% grass-fed/pastured pigs.  We went to some supposedly 100% grass-fed Pig producers web-sites and saw photo’s of the farmers feeding the pig’s grain on the ground from a bucket!  HELLO!      


   Our family had raised "pastured" pigs since settling in this country back in 1726.  But they had always been supplemented with grain, especially in the long Eastern PA winters when forages were not available to graze.  But we were determined to find a way to limit the amount of grain required by our pigs to continue to grow and at the same time not jeopardize their health.  We weren’t interested in finishing them as soon as possible to make a quick buck by the time they reached maturity (generally 250/lbs. by 6 months of age), if it would take an extra month or 2 to reach that optimal live weight, we were comfortable with that as long as they stayed healthy.  We than started looking into breeds that may be better adjusted to living mostly on grass.  It took awhile, but we only found that the Tamworth breed was best suited to survive strictly on a 100% forage diet.   Due to what we found in the past we decided to do additional research on this breed to make sure the few success stories we found about the Tamworth breed were not just isolated incidents. 


   Coincidently my wife knew someone through a past work associate that breeds Tamworth Pig’s and has been successful at raising them on a 100% grass-fed diet.  I still wasn’t convinced.  So we made an appointment to go see them.  It was a few hours south of us, but it was still within our state so I knew we were due to experience close to the same climates and pasture conditions throughout the year.  My main concern wasn’t with could they survive on 100% grass pastures 6 months out of the year during the forages normal growing season, I was wondering how they stayed healthy during the winter on either stockpiled forages or stored dry hay.


   The Tamworth is probably the purest of the modern breeds of swine, they have been improved more largely by selection and care than by the introduction of the blood of other breeds.  Fortunately the class of men who had undertaken the improvement of some of the other breeds, by sacrificing almost everything to an aptitude to fatten, did not undertake the Tamworth; hence the preservation of the length and prolificacy of the breed. For a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively little attention. About that time the bacon curers opened a campaign against the then fashionable short, fat and heavy shouldered pigs, which they found quite unsuitable for the production of streaked side meat for which the demand was constantly increasing. The Tamworth then came into prominence as an improver of some of the other breeds, in which capacity it was a decided success owing to its long established habit of converting it's food into lean meat.  Tamworth pigs are especially hardy and tolerate our harsh winters quite well. They are known for their vigorous rooting ability and we are using them to reclaim brushland for use as pasture and hay production.  The Tamworth originated in Ireland where they were called "The Irish Grazer". About the year 1812 it is said that Sir Robert Peel, being impressed with the characteristics of them, imported some of them and started to breed them on his estate at Tamworth, England. They have been bred quite extensively ever since they were imported into that country.


   We have been successfully breeding Tamworth, Duroc and Hampshire cross pigs now for 4 years and are continually improving the breed we now call TAM-ROC.  Our Tam-Roc pigs are very docile and for that reason, very sought out by 4H’ers for show pigs.  They aren’t 100% Grass-fed, but we can honestly say that they are about 80% Grass-fed being supplemented with dry hay and grain’s primarily in the winter months when growing forages aren’t available.  Just like 100% Grass-fed dairy cattle produce less milk than grain fed cattle, our Tam-Roc pigs do grow slower than grain-fed/confined pigs.  But boy do they look great and taste even better when they reach that live weight in about 7.5 months.   The old saying is true when applied to producing pastured pigs, "Good things come to those who wait".  Don’t be in a hurry when trying to perfect something, especially in animal agriculture.  Remember, perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.  Oink, Oink!


Nov 10, 2013

 Keeping Cattle healthy through winter


   Snow and high winds like some of us have been experiencing this fall are a bad combination for previously healthy unstressed cow’s & calves. Not to mention it’s pretty hard on us too!  We can always put on more clothing and have the option of going back inside to sit in front of the fireplace or wood stove,  but to protect calves and full-grown cattle from the onset of respiratory problems, it’s advisable to keep them dry and out of the wind as best as possible.  Throughout the Heartlands North West many herds never even made it out onto winter range and pasture before last months devastating blizzard. With little protection from the snow & wind, many ranchers found out too late how important being proactive is as compared to being reactive.  Being proactive means moving livestock into protected areas as soon as possible early in the season to reduce the problems experienced last month.  Colder temperatures raise nutrient requirements of both cows and calves. Extra, high quality forages will be necessary to help livestock maintain their core body temperatures and help keep their immune systems functioning properly.


   Calves that are showing signs of respiratory problems should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible. The sooner calves are treated after showing signs of sickness, the more effective the treatment will be. Continuous use of antibiotics as a preventative treatment for respiratory problems is discouraged as drug resistance WILL become a problem. Another problem likely to arise in calves following winter storm stress is bloody scours as a result of coccidiosis. There are various feed additives that are effective against the pathogenic bovine coccidia. Contact your veterinarian for treatment recommendations.


   Another concern producers may be experiencing is water availability for livestock as a result of freezing temperatures, no electric service, or both! After a short adjustment period, cows will consume adequate amounts of snow to meet water requirements. Eating snow is a learned behavior rather than instinct, therefore an adjustment period is needed for the "yearling" cattle to learn how to eat snow.  Generally it takes three days for cows to adapt to eating snow.  Cattle can do well when snow is their only water source, as long as there is adequate snow present, and it is not hard or crusted over. It is important to monitor your cattle and snow conditions on a daily basis. A lack of water will reduce feed intake, and cows can lose condition very rapidly when water is deficient.  If snow hardens and crusts over due to drifting, rain, or thawing and freezing, you will need to provide them with an alternative source of water. Substituting snow for water is not a cure-all, but it can buy some time until range/pasture conditions improve.


   Adverse winter weather, like what EVERYONE will be experiencing in the very near future, can increase costs of production up to 20% or more. Whether in a feedlot or wintering pastures, proper shelter design and maintenance are crucial for keeping your cattle dry, healthy and comfortable under adverse climatic conditions.  In the winter, cattle maintenance requirements can be over 50% greater in pens containing wet "muddy" cattle, versus dry clean cattle, causing reduced comfort and performance.  Not to mention a lot of un-necessary chores for YOU , the producer.


   Good pen/shelter/feedlot drainage is critical for minimizing mud. The basic goal is to remove water/urine as quickly as possible from the pen with minimum erosion of soil. Ideally a 5-8% slope away from feeding areas, especially when round bale feeders without bottoms are utilized, should be maintained in the protective shelter/area.  Shelter area’s should be designed so that the back of the area stays clean and open to allow drainage to discharge directly into environmentally friendly catch basins/manure holding facilities, until the accumulation of waste material can be safely spread on your fields.  In some areas that could mean needing an area large enough to contain waste until spring!


   Construction of concrete pads or aprons (generally 8 feet wide) along feed bunks and around water troughs eliminate much of the competition often associated with feeding areas when mud becomes a problem and good feeding spaces become scarce.  Mud tends to accumulate around feeding and watering places due to the soil being worked away while cattle are in these areas. Manure & urine also tends to be concentrated in these areas adding to the mud and moisture problems.


   It is essential that pens & shelter surfaces are cleaned regularly, sometimes daily, with any manure or undigested materials being removed from the animal protective area.  Also, it’s okay to change to a higher roughage diet when the next snowstorm hits, to minimize overeating or acidosis, but don’t be too aggressive in making those changes. The more stable we can maintain the rumen environment, the better off our cattle will be.  So start feeding better forages now so your cattle’s rumen can adjust and build up a resistance to what "Old Man Winter" is getting ready to dish out next.


Nov 06, 2013


Tips to help you (and your herd), to beat old man winter.


Plan ahead now for winter feeding/grazing!   Once bad weather hits, many chances of finding "economical" hay and baled grasses are at a minimum.  If you need to make supplemental hay purchases,  chances are so does everyone else!  And with the way hay isn’t growing this year (at least in the North/East), hay will be very expensive to buy when you run out in January or February.


Here's an example of how to roughly estimate your herds hay/grass needs as an initial way of checking the adequacy of your banked hay in your hay mow.


If you do any rotational grazing, winter is the best time of the year to review next seasons grazing program!  There will be some variation with consumption and nutrient levels, but knowing if your cattle are consuming 15 pounds compared to 25 pounds of forage or dry matter (hay), is a BIG difference!


Now is the best time of the year to review your paddock layout and size of each paddock.  I suggest that you put posts that will section off 1, 2 and/or 3 acre paddocks, depending on the size of your herd.  This way you can use temporary fencing to graze paddocks of a specific size.   This is essential as you determine forage quantities before and after grazing.


By utilizing the figure of 1" growth per acre equals approx. 200-400 lbs. of forage dry matter (depending on forage species), you will be able to arrive at a reasonable figure of lbs. of dry matter consumed.  Than you can determine a "ballpark" figure of nutrients recieved from grazing.


As I’ve stated previously, if you are just developing a grazing program for next season, start with an aerial photo (available on Googlemaps), of your grazing area to see how animal movement and paddock layout could best be managed.  Next using temporary flags or stakes, outline each paddock and the animal alleyways with proposed gates.  Permanent fencing and gates for the animal alleyway can be erected when you feel the system is working.  Good luck and let's get going because snow could be on the way within the next week & a half in our neck of the woods!


Animal Health
It's no secret that cows need more nutritional energy in colder weather. Ruminant nutritionists have used the rule of thumb that a cow's energy requirements increase 1% for each degree the wind chill is below the 32°F. lower critical temperature (LCT) for cows with a dry winter hair coat.

Research indicates energy requirements for maintenance of beef cows with a wet hair coat is much greater. Cows exposed to falling precipitation and having wet hair coats are considered to have reached the LCT at 59° F. In addition, the requirements change twice as much for each 1° change in wind-chill factor -- with the energy requirement actually increasing 2% for each degree below 59° F.

This amount of energy change is often impossible to accomplish with feedstuffs available on ranches. In addition, this amount of energy change in the diet of cows accustomed to a high roughage diet must be made very gradually to avoid severe digestive disorders.

Therefore, the more common-sense approach is to provide a smaller increase in energy requirements during wet cold weather and extend the increase into improving weather to help regain energy lost during the storm.

Cows on large "Ranch" style operations (500 head +), consuming 16 lbs. of grass hay/day and 5 lbs. of 20% "Range Cubes" can be increased to 20 lbs. of grass hay/day plus 6-7 lbs. of range cubes during the severe weather event. Extending this amount for a day or two after the storm may help overcome the energy loss during the storm in a manner that doesn't cause digestive disorders.

For a feeding period of............................................... 3 months

Number in your herd.................................................... 25

Weight of each cow/heifer/steer................................1,100lbs.

Daily intake..................................................................2 1/2% of total body weight (approx. 27 1/2lbs a day!).

Take the length of the feeding period, multiplied by the number of cattle, multiplied once again by the hay intake per pound.......That's 61,875lbs!!!

Not taking into account any waste hay that can't be fed.  (figure approx. 10%)

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